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White Evangelicals: Early Influence On GOP Race, But Prospects Then Get Shakier

Elections Headlines Politics Tribune News Service

White Evangelicals: Early Influence On GOP Race, But Prospects Then Get Shakier

Ben Carson

By David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — White evangelical Christians are well-positioned to have a strong say in early 2016 Republican primaries and caucuses, a new analysis by Geoffrey Skelley of Sabato’s Crystal Ball found Thursday. But they could face trouble later in the campaign season.

Voting starts Feb. 1 in Iowa, where in 2012 exit poll data showed 56 percent of caucus voters were white evangelicals. Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, had a strong appeal to those voters, and inched out a win.

Skelley, using data from exit polls in 2008 and 2012, as well as information from the Census Bureau and the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas, found that 64 percent of total delegates in states with primaries or caucuses prior to March 8 will come from states with likely white evangelical majorities. South Carolina votes later in February, and on March 1, states with primaries or caucuses, and sizable evangelical populations, include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Three more such states, Kentucky, Louisiana and Kansas, vote March 5.

That means that candidates with special appeal to those groups could get an early boost, but it doesn’t mean that will last. A majority of convention delegates will be chosen after March 8.
“All this is to say that white evangelical Christians are going to impact the 2016 Republican nomination contest, just as they have in previous cycles,” Skelley found.

But because early delegates will be awarded proportionately, it will be hard for any single candidate in a multi-candidate field to get a huge early lead. And after March 15, some states will have winner take all primaries. And more states with smaller evangelical communities, such as Florida and Ohio, will be voting.

“This is not to say that a white evangelical-oriented outsider candidate won’t win the Republican nomination,” Skelley said. “But many states with large numbers of conservative born-again Christians will vote when many candidates may still be in the race, possibly splintering their delegate hauls.

“Nonetheless, if the white evangelical Iowa lane of the field winnows a great deal between now and March 1, it’s possible that someone could take advantage and rack up a solid delegate take. Only time will tell, but there’s little question that white evangelical Christians are going to be an important factor in determining the GOP nominee, particularly in the early going.”

So far, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has attracted a strong evangelical following. Also in the mix are real estate mogul Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana; Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and 2008 Iowa caucus winner; and Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania and 2012 winner in Iowa.

Photo: Ben Carson has a strong evangelical following. REUTERS/Rick Wilking



  1. TZToronto November 12, 2015

    Let the delegate count be splintered among as many candidates as possible. It would be very interesting to see what would happen if the convention did not have a candidate with a majority of the ballots in hand at the start. Should that be the case, there would be a lot of very unhappy GOPTP-ers. A lot of people are going to be on the outside looking in, and they may just decide that they can’t vote for anyone–can’t vote for an evangelical, can’t vote for a “moderate,” can’t vote for someone already part of the corrupt government machine, and certainly can’t vote for a Democratic woman! Will they stay home, or will they hold their noses and vote?

  2. @HawaiianTater November 12, 2015

    We’re at a critical junction in the history of the USA. Religion is already at all-time lows and the numbers are continuing to fade. A right wing conservative Christian zealot in the WH now would have ramifications that would last for decades on a public that is fast moving away from religion. If they get in there and stack the SCOTUS with ultra-conservative justices, you’d see what is essentially turning into a minority have a disproportional control over the future of our country. The USA is at a tipping point and we’re heading away from evangelical values. We’re posed to start making huge leaps into the future as far as science and social justice goes. This is the last great stand from evangelicals. They know they are losing and will do everything in their power to cause as much destruction as possible on the way out. Even if the Dems keep the WH, there are still lots of evangelicals in positions of power that is keeping progress as slow as possible. Yet, we’re still moving forward despite that. Them getting the big seat now would be disastrous and set us back by generations. We’d have to go back and re-fight all the old battles again instead of moving on to new ones. That’s a mistake that our country simply cannot afford to make.

    Of course, I don’t particularly think the GOP has any real chances of taking the WH next year but goddamn, it’s a terrifying prospect to even think about.

  3. Otto Greif November 12, 2015

    Unfortunately many evangelicals are susceptible to magic negro syndrome.

    1. johninPCFL November 13, 2015

      Yes. They all believe in magic. It’s a mental disorder.

  4. idamag November 12, 2015

    What poor delusional Ben Carson does not know is that it was the White evangelical so-called Christians that was lynching, shooting, burning crosses, bombing churches and killing his race and passing the plate in church on Sunday.

  5. Eleanore Whitaker November 13, 2015

    John the Baptist was an evangelist. He preached religion. To use the word, “evangelical” to describe “ideologues” with radical right wing ideas of grandeur is ridiculous.

    There’s a difference between a truly spiritual human being with only goodness for all in mind and these so-called evangelicals preaching their gospels of antiquated insularism and so-called Christianity, while knowingly indoctrinating their subliminal messages of force and power.

    Can we call Hitler an evangelical too? After all, every documentary on this evil man shows him evangelizing his ideology, doesn’t it?

    Behind every evangelical is a man who plays at being “religious” and “holy.”

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. Mother Teresa was holy. Joel Osteen, David Koresh, Tammy and Jim Bakker, Jim Jones and Jimmy Swaggart are not holy.

    There’s little difference in American evangelicals than ISIS who also believes in totalitarian power. All these lunatic fringe evangelicals do is turn people off to religion, which isn’t the fault of religions but ideologues.

  6. pmbalele November 13, 2015

    Dr. Carson had made one big mistake – injecting religion in
    politics. So has Huckabee. Once you mix religion
    and politics you lose a lot of Americans.
    Religious belief is what is causing the killings and chaos in the
    Middle-East and elsewhere in the world. Religion and faith should be personal. Carson
    has condemned Muslims never to be in the WH. Carson should remember condemning or
    ruling a country based on values espoused in a religion is inviting problems in
    this Country. And I believe those who wrote the Constitution saw the problems with
    religious beliefs. I am catholic. When young
    I was preached that non-Catholics would not be welcome into heaven. That means
    only us Catholics were eligible for heaven. And I believe that for years. But
    then scandals erupted in the Catholic Church. I then questioned whether all leaders
    in the Catholic Church were living to the call. Some failed. With that in mind
    I found that faith in the Creator should be personal and religious beliefs
    should never influence government policies. With that in mind I believe the Constitution
    should be our religion in this Country.


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